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Foreign university bill on Smriti table

New Delhi, June 8: Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani is likely to fast-track a pending bill that allows foreign universities to set up campuses and award their degrees in India, sources said.

But they added that the new government might re-examine and make some changes to the Foreign Educational Institutions (Entry and Operations) Bill, pending in Parliament since being introduced by its predecessor in May 2010.

A parliamentary standing committee to which the bill had been referred had suggested several amendments. It had said that leading foreign universities might be deterred by the provision barring the repatriation of any profit they make by teaching students in India.

The House panel had also objected to the bill exempting reputable overseas institutions from a requirement, applicable to other foreign universities, to deposit Rs 50 crore before they open campuses in India. The committee said such a selective exemption amounted to discrimination.

Also, the bill says that any interested foreign university needs to have at least 20 years of standing in its home country. But the committee has said the stress should be on the quality of education provided rather than on the age of the institution.

After the standing committee gave its report, the UPA government had refrained from pushing the bill in Parliament as the Samajwadi Party and the Left were opposed to it. The NDA is better placed with its absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, though it will need others’ support in the Rajya Sabha.

The new government may also push several other pending education bills introduced by its predecessor.

One of them looks to make it mandatory for all educational institutions to get accredited by recognised agencies on the basis of norms prescribed by the National Accreditation Authority.

Another seeks to tackle a range of “unfair practices” by educational institutions, such as capitation fees, misleading or wrong ads, teacher salary irregularities, nepotism in awarding marks to students, and discrimination on the grounds of caste, religion or gender.

This bill provides for administrators being jailed for up to three years for charging capitation fees.

A third bill seeks to create an electronic database of all the academic certificates issued by school boards and universities, called the National Academic Depository.

However, two other pending education bills may not get the new government’s support. One of them seeks to create an overarching regulator for general, technical and legal education while the other aims to set up educational tribunals to decide disputes relating to education.

A parliamentary panel had advised against the creation of an overarching regulator and suggested that existing regulators like the University Grants Commission be strengthened, instead.

The BJP’s poll manifesto too spoke about restructuring the commission. The government might amend the UGC Act to give more teeth to the regulator.